Cloud is now synonymous with AWS, Azure, and Google, as if to suggest there are no other choices, and that change is binary. As the pressure for enterprises to modernize swells, our conversations about “cloud” are reduced to overhyped, oversimplified, redundant assessments of high-level metrics whenever a brand-name provider announces their quarterly earnings.

But enterprises aren’t binary. Their teams don’t live within glossy, black and white, clean lines. Enterprises are messy and complex. Their leaders want to modernize, but the reality is that they don’t know how. They want cloud agility, but they run on old systems.

Hyperscale cloud providers have big names and big budgets, which often drive big headlines, and rightfully so. The problem is many of these headlines obscure what’s actually happening inside enterprises – particularly the fact that hyperscale clouds don’t work for the bulk of those organizations’ existing applications.

The fact is enterprises can’t flip a switch, team up with a hyperscale cloud provider and suddenly become cloud-native – despite the bluster of vendors, press, and pundits.

The stark reality of enterprise modernization

Today we’re releasing the results of a new report that presents a decidedly alternative depiction of the state of enterprise cloud. The report not only casts light on the real cost of a “one-stop-shop” approach to modernization, but also exposes the stark realities of what cloud migration actually looks like, and uncovers the unexpected challenges businesses face along the way.

For example, the majority of survey respondents are managing hundreds of applications, the bulk of which are both on-premises and mission-critical. For all intents and purposes, their businesses run in the datacenter. Of course, these same leaders want to reach the cloud – 67% plan to migrate at least half their on-premises applications to the cloud in 24 months or less – but they haven’t yet.

Why?

Our study found at least 50 percent of respondents cite common, valuable business applications including customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and data analytics as “least suited” for the cloud, even though these are the same applications they intend to migrate in the next 12-24 months. These often decades-old applications can’t be discarded, but datacenter resources are unable to keep up with the pace of change. More than half of respondents report the biggest challenge posed by their existing infrastructure is it takes too long to deliver new capabilities, followed closely by challenges around lack of knowledge, experience and skills to manage existing infrastructure, and cost issues.

Self-induced skills challenge

The modernization conundrum facing enterprises today is made even more explicit in respondents’ people and skills challenges. The majority of tech leaders expect improved customer response and competitiveness through migrating mission-critical applications to cloud, and yet the most popular routes to cloud cited in the study – refactoring and rewriting – are also the most time-intensive, burdensome, and complex. The study’s respondents face both a lack of skills on their existing teams and a major recruitment challenge in finding talent that can help modernize their traditional applications.

The survey’s findings speak to a reality most in the cloud industry prefer not to face – pulling core business applications into the cloud is difficult and customers need a better path forward than starting from scratch in a hyperscale cloud. Okta CIO Mark Settle’s comment after reviewing the research adds a fine point to findings:

The end game is clear, the path forward is not. All enterprises, large and small, are trying to leverage the business agility and cost benefits that can be achieved through cloud computing. 451 Research’s recent study underscores the difficulties of transitioning to cloud-centered operations and conclusively demonstrates that individual companies will have unique journeys depending upon their application mix, internal skill sets, and end game objectives

We built Skytap Cloud specifically to address this challenge, and are helping hundreds of enterprises succeed with an iterative, realistic approach to cloud-driven modernization. We encourage you to visit our survey microsite and challenge your own thinking about modernization, cloud and tech skills.

Let’s create a conversation that gives users clear choices to manage change and move past the hyperbole and rhetoric that so often oversimplifies the depth and complexity of enterprise IT.

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